A sometimes overlooked aspect of the game is special teams, but not this season, and not on 49ers.com. Each week, we'll feature Teams Talk, a column dedicated to special teams and those who play on them. These teamers will share their breakdowns of the upcoming opponent and give you some insight on some aspects of special teams you might not be too familiar with. In this week's column, kicker Joe Nedney is our featured special teams player.
KICKER JOE NEDNEY
Atlanta has a good special teams unit all the way around. I think they take pride in special teams as do we.
They have a solid kickoff coverage unit. They're doing a very good job, better than we are in fact and I think we're doing pretty darn good. They have an explosive kickoff returner in Jerious Norwood and they have Adam Jenning returning punts. Those are two guys who have done a good job in the league. Obviously, we have to shut down those two guys and win the battle of field position so that we can be an asset to our defense and our offense.
We control one-third of the game and that's a huge part of the game. It's field position. It's where the defense starts on the field and it's where the offense starts on the field. As a unit, we all focus on controlling our portion of the game. For me, I can control how high the ball is kicked and where it is kicked to allow my coverage team the best opportunity to get down there. That's the same thing with Andy Lee. Right now I think our special teams are playing well and we will continue to play well, and as long as we keep doing our job, eventually it's going to lead to positive things.
I know their kicker Morten Anderson, and have known him since my first year in the league in fact. He had hurt his calf so the Falcons brought me in for a workout, and that's the first time I met him. I've been in the league for a while now, but when I was going through high school and college, he was the guy. He was a big strong lefty and basically he rewrote the position. I was also a big strong lefty so he was definitely someone I was trying to emulate. It will be really interesting to talk with him now that I fancy myself a veteran even though I'm still a young guy compared to him. He has twice the amount of experience that I do. A lot of who I am is from watching him and it will be really fun to talk to him, and I'm looking forward to it!
As far as being a right footed kicker or a left footed kicker, it really only changes for the holder. There are probably around four or five left-footed kickers in the league now and they are all pretty darned good, but Morten was the first. Morten came out and did a lot of great things. He had the accuracy and he had the leg strength, and he was doing things that no kicker was doing at that time. Obviously age has taken a toll on his strength, but you can still count on the guy from inside the 45 yard line. That's a mindset and when you do it for that long of a time, it becomes very consistent. I'm trying to emulate his very even-keeled nature when he goes out on the feel.
I can't imagine playing that long in the league though. I give him all the credit in the world, but that's something you won't be seeing from me. I will not be playing when I'm 47 years old.
As far as the onside kicks go from last week, there shouldn't have been two penalties in my opinion. There really should have been only the one. It was perfectly executed, nobody was actually offsides, we recovered the ball and made it look very easy. That's the one thing about our team, if we execute the on-side kick correctly, we tend to make it look very easy. Our guys know where the ball is going to land, I know where it is going to land and we can block accordingly because of that. It's a great weapon and I'm glad Coach Nolan likes to use it in his arsenal because it can be very difficult to defend.
I did have that one kick that went out of bounds last week. That was especially frustrating because I haven't been getting on the field a lot the last few weeks. I live and die with our offense and I can't work unless they work. It is very important to me that when I do get my opportunities that I execute it perfectly, so I take it very seriously when the ball goes out of bounds, especially when it is only my third play out on the field.
I get upset with myself and I don't have much patience for me not living up to my own expectations. I'm able to wipe the slate clean and move on, but I still have high expectations for myself and when I don't do my job, I'm upset because I know it's not helping the team. I don't want to put my defense out on the 40 yardline, I want to put them inside the 20 yardline.
We will be playing in a dome this week which is nice because I don't have to listen to the weather report. I know it's going to be 70 degrees with no wind! Any time I get to play in a dome, it's an opportunity for me to execute my job perfectly because I know I'm not going to have to worry about field conditions, wind or rain. All I have to worry about is my target line and the ball coming off on that line.
Playing on field turf doesn't really make any difference to me. I've played on just about any surface out there, more than once. Just about everybody has field turf now if they don't have grass. It doesn't matter what the ground medium is and I don't have a choice anyways. I have to go out there and perform no matter if it's mud, ice, or turf, and I expect top go out there and make my kicks and for the most part that usually happens. When its doesn't I get upset, wipe the slate clean and get back out there and do my job again.